REAL ID a real issue in Idaho

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COEUR d’ALENE — Despite the fact that Idaho is out of compliance with the national REAL ID Act of 2005, Idahoans will still be able to fly commercially and enter federal facilities in 2016.

“We were granted an extension until Oct. 10 of 2016,” said Reed Hollinshead, a spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department.

Idaho was granted a one-year REAL ID extension from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last fall after the legislature failed to deal with the issue this past spring. During the extension, federal agencies will accept Idaho-issued driver's licenses and identification cards for official purposes.

The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 in order to provide additional safety and security for U.S. citizens after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The act modified laws regarding security, authentication, and issuing standards for state driver’s licenses and identification cards, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.

It requires U.S. citizens to have an enhanced driver’s license or passport to be admitted into any any federal facility or to travel by commercial airlines by no later than 2016. Idaho is one of nine states that have to comply with the act. In fact, citing privacy issues the Idaho Legislature passed a law in 2008 saying the state would not comply with the act. However, ITD has been able to work toward complying with many of the act’s requirements.

Hollinshead said Homeland Security has 39 requirements they want states to incorporate into their driver's licences to come in compliance with that act. “We have been able to meet about 34 or 35 of those,” he said. “But the remaining pieces cannot be complied with until the legislature acts.”

Hollinshead said lawmakers could either repeal the 2008 law that was passed to keep the state out of the program, or amend it to allow ITD the authority to come into compliance. He said the progress Idaho has made so far played a part in Idaho securing an extension.

At least one state wasn't so lucky. Homeland Security denied an extension for the state of Minnesota this year because that state has done nothing since 2005 to attempt compliance.

“The Idaho Transportation Department is moving forward with security features to ensure our identification cards are as safe and secure as possible,” ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes said in a prepared statement. “We have a great partnership with Gen. (Brad) Richy and the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security. They have provided valuable insight for us as we work to enhance the security of Idaho’s ID cards and licenses.”

Richy, Director of the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, issued a statement saying: “The outstanding collaboration between ITD, the Department of Homeland Security and Idaho’s Bureau of Homeland Security is critically important to ensuring that Idahoans face no disruptions getting through airport security, or accessing military bases and most Federal facilities using their state-issued driver’s licenses. “The Department recognizes your efforts in enhancing the security of your jurisdiction's driver's licenses and identification cards and has granted this extension based on a review of the information,” the letter from DHS states.

Elizabeth Duncan, spokeswoman for the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, said Idaho has ample time to comply with the act and she expects the legislature will deal with the issue in 2016. “I understand this is something the legislature will be working on this during this upcoming legislative session,” she said.

The Department of Homeland Security has yet to set a date when they will start enforcing REAL ID for air travel, but the agency says they will announce the date at least 120 days before it goes into effect. If Idaho fails to comply by Oct. 10, Idahoans will have to bring a valid passport to travel on commercial airlines.

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